So you’re considering a bicycle commute to work. Join the many thousands already taking advantage of this efficient, cost-effective, and healthy way of getting around town. According to USA Today, biking to work has increased 60% since 2004. That puts us at almost 1 million active riders across the United States riding their bikes to work in a given month.
That’s a lot of people on the road!
With its growing popularity, that also means a lot more people new to the commuting experience. Here are several tips that will not only get you off to a good start, but most importantly keep you safe and secure out on the road.
- Always wear your safety gear
This should go without saying. While you may not have reflective gear the first time you ride, always make sure to wear a helmet and some bright clothing. Biking in the morning can be dark and chilly. Keep gloves in your bag or satchel just in case they’re necessary. Lastly, get some clear goggles in case it begins to drizzle or to simply protect your eyes from the elements.
- Plan your route ahead of time
Bring up Google Maps and get an idea of which roads you’ll have to take to get to work on time. Maps has a wonderful tool under the Directions panel that can A) give you routes based on bike travel and B) provide you with an estimated travel time. Simply click the bike icon. Also, you may want to check the laws in your state for riding on the sidewalk. So long as there isn’t anybody walking, and it’s legal in your state, you can ride on the sidewalk. This can come in handy if you’re holding up traffic or it’s highly congested.
- Follow all traffic laws
Cars, motorcycles, and you all fall under the same set of operating laws. Follow them. Don’t roll through stop signs and obey all traffic lights. Motorists will not treat you as a pedestrian so don’t act as if you are one. Remember your arm signals (up = right turn, left = left turn, down = stop). And as with aggressive drivers, stupid moves may save you a few seconds but the risk is not worth the reward. We’re talking serious injury or death. Don’t chance it; ride defensively.
- Stay well lit
Lights aren’t just for riding in the dark. While you may not use your headlamp during the day, your red rear-facing light does a great job of notifying approaching drivers of your presence. Always test your lights before heading out. You don’t want to be stuck in the dark without illumination.
- Bring extra clothes
While you may think that riding in the frigid air won’t cause you to sweat, or that it will just dry you right up, you’re wrong. At the very least, bring some toiletries (or keep them at work) for those unseasonably warm days or if you’re smelling extra ripe. Having an extra pair of pants and socks that you can change into is also a good plan if you ever ride through a puddle or get caught in a rain storm. Don’t let your day be ruined by a little sweat or dirt.
- Be efficient
You’ll soon find that hauling all of that gear isn’t worth all of the extra work. If you have the time, ride to your destination on the weekend to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. By the same token, only carry what you feel is absolutely necessary. Added weight not only requires you to pedal harder, it’s also more weight for you to balance. After a week of traveling, you’ll find your happy medium and maximum efficiency.
These are just some brief notes to take into consideration when commuting by bicycle. Purchasing panniers or highly-reflective riding gear is can aid you in being even more efficient and safe. Keep in mind that it’s not entirely required if you’re just getting into commuting. It’s merely a recommendation.
One last thing I’d like to touch on is the quality of your bike. While BCBR does provide information for affordable commuter bikes, your ride is a long-term investment. Thinking forward, if you see yourself riding consistently for the next several years, consider purchasing a high-quality bike. Spending three times on a bike can save you money and headaches in the long run for little fixes. The time and cash saved is well-worth the price paid.
Read up on what we have to offer and what we can recommend based on your budget. Here’s a great place to start:
Top 3 Affordable Commuter Bikes
Top 3 Mid-level Commuter Bikes
Alternative Commuter Bikes